Basically, the series of documents are NSA OIG and Congressional reports about the email surveillance program that was shuttered in 2011. It provides a bit more information than was previously available under the original leaks in 2013.
What the author of this article is trying to express is the idea that the NSA was able to resume the function of the email metadata program (they call it PR/TT, or Pen Register / Tap Trace) with some other secret program. The NYT alleges that a paragraph on page 65 links this defunct program with the upstream collection and the PRISM (both FAA §702) programs. It's stated in the paragraph that the NSA concludes that it can do its job with upstream/PRISM and for phone calls, chaining through the telephony metadata collection (SPCMA).
TL;DR: The NSA stopped using the email metadata program and then relied on upstream/PRISM and the telephone metadata program to fulfill the need. The NYT got some FOIA'd documents to confirm this with an official statement.
It's certainly possible that the NSA simply disregards the laws and collects on everybody. However, there isn't any evidence of that here.
Kudos on the NYT for winning their lawsuit and getting the documents through FOIA, though.
The NSA is almost certainly engaging in full-take domestic content collection on everyone—including US citizens. If I had to guess, they're probably staying within the letter of the law while doing so via a combination of legal maneuvering and secret authorizations.
Consider Tim Clemente's on-air remarks, and the fact NSA has been been playing semantics games with the definition of "collection" such as to conflate it with the act of accessing information that's already present in storage.
Also consider that Russ Tice has stated multiple times that full-take domestic content collection was occurring as recently as 2013.
Moreover, what Snowden leaked was primarily from JWICS, which is arguably a glorified PowerPoint repository for the intelligence community. There are more sensitive networks, and it stands to reason that the lurid details of full-take domestic collection would probably be heavily compartmented, not floating around in clear unambiguous form on something like JWICS.
The whole metadata discussion is a bullshit facade. NSA is essentially offering up deprecated programs and their associated policy frameworks for sacrifice on the political altar. This serves to protect their current programs via way of misdirection, providing an illusion of reform.
 9:49, 1:13:29 @ http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/wp-content/uploads/BF.0112.T...
1) all encrypted data is considered "foreign" and therefore all is collected (as if they couldn't see that metadata for that encrypted content...). So if you use Gmail or Facebook you're a foreigner.
2) if there's a >51% chance (flipping a coin) in their algorithm that the target is a foreigner (based on metadata, presumably) then the data will be collected.
3) EFF and others (I think Ron Wyden, too, who is in the Intelligence Committee) have said that the NSA is doing "backdoor searches" on Americans by interpreting the law as "if you communicate to a foreigner they can collect yours, too" - So if you have foreigner Friends on your Facebook or Twitter and you "like" or talk to them, your data will likely be collected.
4) When asked whether it collects the data on members of Congress, I don't remember the exact reply but it was something along the lines of "probably, since we collect it on everyone".
Knowing this (and there are other such answers from them), you have to be very naive to believe the NSA is only collecting the data at most on a small percentage of Americans.
Then Spokesmuppets in front of congress can claim "we do not X under this program", or make similarly carefully-parsed statements, and not technically be lying.
This has happened repeatedly.
And got their agreement to that narrative, which got him out of lying under oath to congress. There will be stories written about this man someday. the way we write about Goebbels.
That whole paragraph creeps me out i try to avoid this whole discussion now because I don't like observing anymore - I'd like to completely check out of it. The mass murder stuff is horrifying and I hate that its a part of my reality, and worse yet my kid has to see that shit on the news, and other kids have to live it. People need to let ideologies go and work towards space travel peace.
If all the other bad stuff has become a reality, I just hope the star trek future we were promised can come true ;)
edit: by part of my reality i mean via the news as well - it hasn't directly affected me thankfully.
Oh well, this will be a good data point, so I'm glad to know this one particular thing isn't some kind of conspiracy theory (always have be careful about those conspiracy theories; they're just so tone deaf and reactionary).
That law is over a decade old.
I have no idea why there weren't a million news stories about WHY you should setup your own private email server in your home and how to do it.
In fact a startup might find the perfect sales pitch to have a plug-and-play mail server for your home. $100 shipped to your door, plug it into your router and give it a domain name.
The nuclear arms race went ok because both main parties were rational, realistic professionals with no desire to see chaos reign. That's not the case with all parties seeking nuclear weapons today. Nobody's worried about MAD anymore, but the chances of someone, somewhere detonating a nuclear weapon on a populated area is just as high as it ever was. There's no reason to be embracing anything, however inevitable it may look.
Perhaps we could better spend our time ensuring we trust our fellow Americans enough that they would not allow a cancerous facism to spread throughout the "shadow government" of the executive branch. In other words, trust they will look out for our best interests and will resist any movement to establish a tyrannical government.
Why can't we just trust the NSA?
The reason the rest of the government has a system of checks and balances is because humans can't be trusted to not get out of control when it comes to power. The NSA has none of this so they will keep expanding their power as much as they can.
Plus even if you didn't trust the government not to go fascist they could recreate a NSA within a few months anyway.
Should any American citizen expect detailed documentation on the intelligence apparatus operating within the NSA? Wouldn't such disclosure jeopardize ongoing operations? The NSA has no obligation to reveal anything more about its operations than federal law requires it to. The legislative branch has the responsibility of enforcing any requirements placed upon the NSA.
The legislative branch is responsible for checking the power of the executive branch, which includes the NSA. That is why congress regulates its operations, and enforces the regulations with specialized committees.
Unfortunately, even if congress can tightly regulate the NSA, it cannot publicly enforce its regulations. Public enforcement would jeopardize ongoing operations within the NSA. If Congress limited its regulations to only those that it could publicly enforce, then it would restrict the scope of the regulations, making it impossible to properly check the power of the NSA.
Given the catch-22 of asking congress to regulate the NSA, but in a publicly provable manner, we are left with two choices: sacrifice the intelligence apparatus altogether, or continue funding it while trusting the regulatory power of congress.
Ultimately the power of the NSA depends on the power of its overseers on the intelligence committee. A powerful group of senators and congressmen could enforce regulations on the NSA.
The challenge is finding trustworthy congressmen, who are capable of regulating the NSA. Americans should really stop worrying about the behavior of the NSA, and start worrying about electing the right congressmen to ensure the NSA is operating for the best interest of the American people.
You're starting from the assumption that current federal laws are moral and just.
It's a tautology to say "they are [legally] obligated to do what they're legally obligated to do" No one would disagree with you on that. The point of the discussion and debate is about what they _should_ be legally obligated to do.
If it's a choice between the unknown benefit/cost of compromising the NSA's operations (through greater transparency) and the current situation (our civil liberties being threatened more and more every day), I would choose the former.
The system of accountability is completely outdated and unbalanced in favor of the intelligence apparatus.
and so on...
False Dilemmas across the board, utterly without nuance. Sprinkle in some, "Welp, that's the law!" nihilism (or complicity) to taste.
Lie to Congress as head of NSA? Retire?
In that case, why not just trust Daesh ?